Author Archives: From Poverty to Power

Once every 20 years the UN focuses on cities, but the wrong people will be there

Urbanization guru David Satterthwaite raises the curtain on next month’s big Habitat III conference. ; Surprising though it may seem, I once got mistaken for the mayor of London. I was at a conference for mayors in Latin America and not realising the mistake, for half a day I had all the most prominent mayors greeting me like a brother and asking my advice. It …

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Do we need to rethink Social Accountability? Thoughts from Myanmar

The main reason for my recent visit to Myanmar (apart from general nosiness) was to take part in a discussion on the role of social accountability (SA) in the rapidly opening, shifting politics of a country in transition from military rule. It got pretty interesting. The World Bank defines SA as ‘the extent and capability of citizens to hold the state accountable and make it …

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Why the World Bank needs to ask Jim Kim some tough questions in his Job Interview

Guest post from Nadia Daar, head of Oxfam’s Washington DC office Preparing for an interview is often traumatic – by this point I’ve done a few and believe me, Oxfam doesn’t make things easy! And I’ve heard the World Bank doesn’t either. Yet for the position of president, there is a widespread feeling that Jim Kim’s upcoming interview with the Board of Directors this week …

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How Change Happens – need your help with the website and promo tour

Sharp-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed that I have a book coming out (that’s irony, people). 27th October in is the UK publication date, and 1 December in US (don’t ask). First copies are just back from the printer (see pic). Over the coming weeks, I will be trying to maintain that fine balance between British reserve and authorial desperation – I’m relying on …

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Is Trust the missing piece in a lot of development thinking?

I have a kind of mental radar that pings when a word starts cropping up in lots of different conversations. Recently it’s been ‘trust’, which surfaced throughout my recent trip to Myanmar, but also during a fun brainstorm with Andrew Barnett and Louisa Hooper, two systems thinkers from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The search for trust drives a lot of economic behaviour. Enforcing contracts in …

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How do you critique a project proposal? Learning from the Experts

A confession – I’m not a programme person. I’ve never run a country programme, or spent aid money (apart from squandering a couple of million quid of DFID’s during my short spell there). So I really enjoyed a recent workshop in Myanmar where a group of real programme people (and me) were asked to critique an imaginary (but not that imaginary) project proposal. It was a great …

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Is ‘fragile and conflict-affected state’ a useful way to describe Myanmar?

After spending ten days there earlier this month, I barely even understand the question any more. Nothing like reality for messing up your nice neat typologies, or in this case, complicating my efforts to finalise a paper with the catchy title of ‘theories of change for promoting empowerment and accountability in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS)’. That paper defines FCS as ‘incapable of assuring basic …

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The world’s top 100 economies: 31 countries; 69 corporations

The campaigning NGO Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement) have done us all a favour by updating the table comparing the economic might of the largest countries and corporations. Headline finding?  ‘The number of businesses in the top 100 economic entities jumped to 69 in 2015 from 63 in the previous year’ according to the Guardian’s summary. The last such table that I know …

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Please help sharpen up the World Bank’s theory of change on governance and law

The World Bank is helping us hone our speed reading skills this week, by publishing a draft of its forthcoming World Development Report 2017 on Governance and the Law and asking for comments by Friday. Someone has helpfully put a track changes version online here, comparing the new (‘green cover’) draft with the previous (‘yellow cover’) one, which I blogged about in July, but it’s …

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How do you do ‘Adaptive Programming’? Two examples of Practical Experience help with some…

Helen Derbyshire (left) of SAVI and Elbereth Donovan (right) of LASER share some thoughts on what all the fuss is about. At a glance the two DFID programmes we work on are very different. SAVI (and its successor programme ECP) is a large scale, long-term initiative which focuses on citizens’ engagement in governance in Nigeria. LASER is a modest, shorter-term investment climate reform programme operating in eight …

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Is it time for the Aid Community to Explain Itself to Developing Countries?

Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace introduces his newly released report, Navigating International Aid in Transitions:  A Guide for Recipients, written with Mark Freeman, Cale Salih, and Robert Templer While interviewing the director of a women’s rights NGO in Zambia some years back, I asked her why she thought various foreign groups supporting her organization were present in her country. Her initial …

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What I’m doing in Myanmar – first vlogged installment

Just spent 3 days in Kachin state in the North, trying to get a slightly better understanding of the nature of Myanmar’s conflicts, and implications for trying to improve governance and accountability. Fascinating, but I won’t write anything just yet, as we have a 3 day conference on that topic this week, so will wait a bit longer before blogging. In the meantime, here are …

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Precarious Lives: Food, Work and Care after the Global Food Crisis. Launch of new report, 9th…

Oxfam researcher John Magrath profiles a new joint Oxfam/IDS report and tries to convince you to come along to the launch in London on 9th September Duncan has written previously about one of the projects he was most proud of initiating while in (nominal!) charge of Oxfam’s Research Team. This started out as Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility’ and was a four year study …

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See you in September

I’m off to the Edinburgh fringe to direct a cultural firehose onto my parched hinterland, followed by 10 days in Myanmar, where, among other things, I will finally find out the correct adjective – Burmese? Not sure when I will be blogging next, so until then, here’s a pic of each.

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